Innovative technologies to recover Secondary Raw Materials from End-of-Life PV Modules

Enel Green Power is looking for sustainable and innovative recycling processes to recover Secondary Raw Materials (SRM) from end-of-life PV modules (including early failed modules), aiming at increasing recovery rates, recovery material quality and minimizing waste production.

Abstract
Enel Green Power is a global leader company in the development and management of energy production from renewable sources, with a total installed capacity of 54 GW based on an integrated portfolio composed of wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal technologies.

In the pursuit of the goal of 100% renewable generation, solar photovoltaic (PV) energy will be one of the most relevant contributors to the growth of renewables in the next decade, with a foreseen constant increase of installed capacity. However, Enel Green Power (EGP) strategy also aims at the development and the adoption of innovative solutions able to support the transition towards a more sustainable and efficient way of generating electricity in the long term.

Some researchers show that a significantly growing PV panel waste is expected in the next future. Global installed PV capacity reached around 400 GW at the end of 2017 and is expected to increase more than 10-fold to 4500 GW by 2050. Considering an average panel lifetime of 25 years, the worldwide solar PV waste is anticipated to reach between 4%-14% of total generation capacity by 2030 and rise to over 80% (around 78 million tons) by 2050. (Md. Shahariar Chowdhury et al., Energy Strategy Reviews, Volume 27, 2020, 100431, doi.org/10.1016/j.esr.2019.100431). Although the amount of waste from photovoltaic (PV) panels is expected to grow exponentially in the next decades and between 80% and 90% in weight of PV panels is currently recycled, little research on increasing the efficiency of their recycling process has been carried out so far.

Growing PV panel waste presents a new environmental challenge, but also unprecedented opportunities to create value and pursue new economic revenues. These include recovery of raw material and the creation of new solar PV end of-life industries.

Although some high-quality materials, as glass, can be recovered with standard recycling processes, high-efficient recycling of PV panels can allow to recover also silicon and metals, which are generally lost in base-case recycling. Besides, Europe is highly dependent on metal imports such as Critical Raw Materials (CRM) as Indium, Phosphorus or Silicon and precious metals, as silver or copper. Aiming at reducing the waste amount landfilled and the import dependency on RM of the European economy, PV recycling is the most relevant, and also necessary, way to supply RM from the tremendous mine of PV waste as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The projection of PV waste underscores the reality of a massive emerging market for PV recycling.

EGP is therefore looking for sustainable and innovative recycling processes to recover Secondary Raw Materials (SRM) from end-of-life PV modules (including early failed modules), aiming at increasing recovery rates, recovery material quality and minimizing waste production.

For questions about the Challenge and your proposal you can contact: [email protected]

Expires: 05 June 2022

Reward: 20,000 $

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